Building a stronger agricultural sector and much-needed infrastructure figures strongly in the World Bank’s new four-year strategy for East Timor, a country hitherto heavily dependent on oil revenues.
The World Bank launched the strategy on Tuesday (March 19). This follows the bank’s 2010-2011 interim strategy for the country, in which the main areas of focus included energy access and support for the management of public finances.
Although the new strategy is not yet publicly available, a World Bank spokesperson told Devex that its main themes are building core infrastructure, such as health centers and schools, and supporting nonoil industries, such as agriculture. A total of $54 million is expected to be made available over the next two years to fund these projects. The first project will focus on health, the spokesperson said.
Some “successful efforts” the World Bank looks set to continue include the Education Sector Support Project, which, according to the spokesperson, has helped boost the number of children who have completed primary school education in the country.
An upgrade of the Tibar Port, which is a national priority in East Timor under its strategic development plan, will also be looked into to boost business and better develop the private sector. A better transport network, including the road from Dili to Ainaro, will also be critical for the country’s economic development.
That road is used by more than 11,000 small-holder farmers and is the main route used for the transport of for-export agricultural products.
The strategy also proposes a number of projects targeting agriculture, including training and the provision of technology that will increase crop yields for small-holder farmers. An estimated 70 percent of the population currently depend on subsistence farming.
The strategy comes as East Timor “looks to diversify its economy,” according to the bank. Almost 90 percent of the country’s spending is currently paid for by its Petroleum Fund.
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